‘Amateur Hour’: Biden Admin’s Floating Gaza Pier Problems Go From Bad To Worse

Pier-building begins Construction of the floating JLOTS pier in the Mediterranean is underway. The pier will support @USAID and humanitarian partners to receive and deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. @USTRANSCOM and @USEUCOM support the movement of #humanitarianaid. (Courtesy Photo)

New problems are mounting for the Biden administration’s $320 million floating Gaza aid pier which was already facing setbacks, despite becoming operational less than two weeks ago.

The U.S. military was forced to halt aid shipments to Gaza on Tuesday after the floating pier was damaged by bad weather over the weekend. The damage sustained from the bad weather is only the latest in a string of logistical and operational problems that have plagued the pier since it was constructed in mid May.

The JLOTS pier was a “horrible idea,” Michael DiMino, senior fellow at Defense Priorities and former CIA and defense official, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “It’s a horrible idea due to the challenges that we just saw basically wreck the whole project.”

“It was never a sound plan to begin with… whether it’s accidents, or logistical hurdles, or risk to our troops and all these problems that have come to fruition. I don’t think that there should be any effort to try to continue this, or salvage it, or fix it,” DiMino said, pointing to safer, more effective methods of delivering aid to Gaza. “I think now is an opportunity to say this failed. Let’s wrap this up before we continue to tempt fate.”

 

 

Getting aid into Gaza via the JLOTS system requires several steps. Aid is first delivered by vessels to the floating pier off the shores of Gaza, where it is facilitated by U.S. officials. It is then picked up by loading vessels and transferred back to a separate causeway pier attached to the shores of Gaza, then trucked by various aid groups to warehouses for distribution.

Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh confirmed that U.S. aid deliveries had been halted after rough weather and choppy waters broke the causeway pier apart on Tuesday, rendering it useless for the time being. The pier will be removed from the coast of Gaza and towed northbound to Israel for repairs; it will take “at least over a week” to fix the pier before it can be re-anchored on the Gaza coastline, Singh told reporters.

“We had a perfect storm of high sea states… creating not an optimal environment to operate this JLOTS pier,” Singh said Tuesday, responding to a question as to whether the pier is too fragile to withstand tough conditions. “Hopefully weather conditions won’t hinder it anymore [once it is operational again].”

The pier can only be operated during favorable sea conditions, in a maximum of three-foot waves and wind speeds not higher than 15 miles per hour. Aside from the minimum week timeline, reconstruction efforts cannot take place if sea conditions are poor, possibly adding further delays

The incident comes just a day after a separate stint of bad weather unmoored four U.S. Army vessels supporting the JLOTS system and sent them floating away from the operational site off the coast of Gaza. Two vessels floated north and were beached in Ashdod, Israel, while the other two anchored on the Gaza coast near the causeway. One of the vessels has been recovered, and the other three will be recovered by Thursday, Singh told reporters during Tuesday’s press briefing.

video from the incident appears to depict U.S. soldiers from one of the beached vessels in Gaza stranded on the shores of Gaza while awaiting rescue, despite the Biden administration’s promise that there would be no U.S. “boots on the ground” in the region during JLOTS operations.

“This is amateur hour. It’s unacceptable that there’s so little planning that appears to have gone into this, to the point where half a dozen U.S. troops are washed ashore in a war zone surrounded by Hamas,” DiMino told the DCNF.

That problem was proceeded by another incident last week in which three U.S. troops suffered injuries during JLOTS operations. While exact details haven’t been disclosed — other than that it was a non-combat incident — two of the troops suffered minor injuries and the third was critically injured and subsequently evacuated to an Israeli hospital for emergency care; he is still in critical condition, Singh said Tuesday.

Days after the JLOTS system was constructed, shipments that made it to the shores of Gaza via the causeway and floating pier were quickly stolen off of trucks by crowds of hungry civilians, creating security concerns among aid groups responsible for distribution. The United Nations and U.S. have discussed alternate routes for trucks to transfer aid to warehouses in lieu of the incident.

There are also security concerns for the U.S. troops supporting the JLOTS operations. Pentagon officials, including Department of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, have admitted there is a baseline risk that Hamas operatives on the ground in Gaza could stage an attack on the causeway or fire at troops offshore.

More broadly, only a fraction of the aid needed to address the humanitarian needs of the millions of Palestinians in Gaza can be delivered via the JLOTS system, even when fully operational. U.S. officials have said that roughly 90 trucks worth of aid will be delivered to Gaza via JLOTS in the interim, and eventually up to 150 trucks once the system is at full capacity.

But the UN previously told the DCNF in a statement that hundreds of trucks of aid are needed on a daily basis.

“That makes the pier a relative drop in the bucket at best — a waste of $320 million American taxpayer dollars and the futile deployment of 1,000 U.S. service personnel,” Shoshana Bryen, senior policy director at the Jewish Policy Center, previously told the DCNF.

It is far safer and more effective to deliver aid to the Palestinians through other methods, chiefly by truck convoys through border crossings in Egypt to the south and Israel to the west, of which there are several. The international community has expressed concern that Israel and Egypt are not allowing enough aid to enter through these crossings, though Israel counters that it is already going to great lengths to ensure delivery; Egypt refused to allow hundreds of trucks worth of aid to enter Gaza through the Rafah border crossing until recently.


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